Last week, I spent a really enjoyable week with the team in Alston, Cumbria, handing over tasks that I really didn’t need to be doing myself and welcoming back the lovely Dawn, who is returning after a nine-year stint elsewhere to support our customers. (Some of you who have been with us a long time might remember Dawn, and her love of the word ‘Eeee’. (It’s a North East thing.))
All of this was important to me because this year I intend to spend one day a week working on an exciting new project of passion – linked to my love of creative writing. (I look forward to sharing more about that in the coming months.)
Being able to pursue this side project meant I needed to find a whole day in my already busy week. What was I going to do? Lose a day off and have less time to spend with my partner, dog or horses (not necessarily in that order ;-)) - time that is preciously short anyway? Work nights? Avoid holidays?
None of these were hugely attractive options but they’re the sort of trap we all fall into. When new opportunities or challenges come along, we try to do more with the same amount of time and too often end up sacrificing the very things that give us most joy and satisfaction.
It’s a trap I’ve fallen into before as the ideas and dreams have piled up around me and I was determined that this time I’d make time for this new venture in a cleverer way. So, I sat down and critically examined where my working day goes and where I continue to add real value to the business, as it develops. I quickly realised that a lot of my time was being spent on tasks I probably shouldn’t be doing; admin and process-based tasks that other people could do as well, or better. For example, I was spending two or three hours every week reviewing, scheduling and managing our social media activity. I was reconciling the bank account every day with our accounts software. I was keeping records that others could just as easily keep for me. In short, my control freakery meant I was holding on to things I shouldn’t have been.
But I suspect holding on to things wasn’t just about control. Simple repetitive tasks can bring consistency and comfort to an often-unpredictable workload. And it was nice to have some tasks that I knew inside out and that I could do, if not with my eyes closed, then at least without having to think too hard. But the fact that they were ‘easy’ was possibly a sign that I shouldn’t still have been doing them. Sacrificing these old habits will release the time I need to do something that will further develop my skills and test my abilities.
It’s amazing what you can let go of if you just learn to, well, let go. And the important thing is, that whilst I’m letting go of processing and tasks, I am still retaining access to all of the information I had before. I’m not letting go of responsibility.
Delegation can be scary – and sometimes we’re blind to the things we can and should delegate. But the rewards of successful delegation can be huge, and not just for the person delegating. It can provide opportunities for others to develop new skills and to shine – as Zoe, for example, is already doing with our social media campaigns.
As you’d expect, there’s loads of material on delegating in both Trainers’ Library and Managers’ Library, including tips on how to do it effectively. (I'm not allowed to include links, but if you'd like to know more, get in touch, or leave a comment below. ;-))